VIDEO: ‘Three’ – Earthmover

It goes without saying that Earthmover’s ability as artists (and as live performers) transcends their music in however way they fashion it. From the gentle opening to the explosive breakout, their songs are structured to progress. You, as a listener, might anticipate it, but the actualization of being able to fully absorb the tenacity of Earthmover’s sound is still ever sweeping.

But perhaps one of Earthmover’s strengths as musicians is how they can widen the range of their songs in the matter of delivering it beyond the recorded form. The band already has a foothold of being a conscientious, deeply enthralling music-makers, but, as displayed in their performance of ‘Three’ during their opening set for the Caspian and So I Watch You From Afar show, Earthmover has proven, once again, that their music, whether live or recorded, pushes sonic bounds.

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TRACK: ‘$alty’ – OJ River

Listening to upcoming hip-hop artist OJ River’s “$alty” feels like simultaneously getting hypnotized and sucked in some limbo space. There’s a sheer calm in it, devoid of overbeat, overused, tripped-out techniques – almost bored, but not lazy or sloppy. There’s a faint echo of Earl Sweatshirt and Flying Lotus in it somewhere, with a clever glitchy loop (like a psychedelic version of morse code) and occasional abstract scratches produced by Neil Raymundo, known as SPNZ. Witty at times and chilly all over, “$alty” is just a swirl, good kind of fun. That is, if you let him and his boxes of goods– in.

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ALBUM: ‘be/ep’ – BP Valenzuela

The first few seconds of “Geomorph”, be/ep’s opening track, is vividly reminiscent of a post-night out rendezvous done in a whim, crafted with Oriental strings at the backdrop, like a haphazard affair in the vein of a Wong Kar-wai feature. The second song, “Building”, seamlessly follows, clearly yearning for intimacy but with an echo of fear and reticence.

B.P. Valenzuela gives us a glimpse of her thought process, a window to her feelings even, sprawled on her lyrical poetry fashioned after the paradoxical and unconventional e.e. cummings– a poet she confessed to be an inspiration to her songwriting. Hers, however, is more reserved. As outlandish her champion can be on overtly narrating the physical ways of expressing romance, her style is more taciturn but still maintains an impressionistic approach; like a timid woman who fills notebooks upon notebooks of poems and confessions she dare not utter with an audience. But that’s how the quality of her work shines: in its uncompromised honesty. After all, she chose to probe into the core of music’s lifeblood: the state of being. Being in love, specifically. In “The General Scheme of Things”, a personal favorite, she examines the larger picture. Not in the manner of demystifying the unknown, but almost like sitting down under a tree, alone, and just mull life in general without any pressure.

There are faint similarities between her melodies, especially in “All That You Are” and Coldplay’s cathartic, lesser known songs in Parachutes. Her electronic arrangements lean towards a mixture of Brian Eno, Daughter, and Love in Athens, except maybe in the closing track, “Second Nature”, where she vaguely reminds me of Neko Case. That said, B.P. Valenzuela is a fledgling entity of her own, with a long musical background that was initially spent discovering her own voice and though playing guitars for bands over the years. It’s clear with Be/Ep that she sees the world through rose-colored glasses, never to be the pragmatic one, and will almost always be caught up in the whirl of neoclassicism, restoring and embedding fragments of her life and its lessons to her music, and maybe, truly, in the general scheme of things.

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TRACK: ‘Felt_It’ – similarobjects

One would know a Similar Objects track from anywhere. It’s blasphemous to say that it’s because of its predictability, but is actually due to its finesse and tantric quality that marks every beat, every loop, every choice of reverb and synth – like his own patented blueprint. “Felt_it” has an esoteric effect that’s synonymous to a cold, pensive night in solitude, which does not necessarily equate to loneliness, but more of pacified contentment. Its billowing effects layered with drumbeats in midtempo blend well together, punctuated by hushed vocals that wish you a dreamless sleep.

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TRACK: ‘Superfeelings’ – Soul_brk

Leon Esquillon, whose work as SOUL_BRK capitalizes on mellifluous arrangements, gratifies the senses and above all, makes melancholia sound alluring. His sound palette makes you devour on despair or sadness as if it’s chocolate melting on your hands. From his previous works, Terminus EP and Dreamscape Oddities, he’s gotten the flair of mixing probably the best tunes for nocturnal woes or rendezvous, whichever applies.

In his latest track, ‘Superfeelings’, there’s a tenderness that accompanies the looped piano intro from Chris Brown’s 2008 chart-topper, ‘Superhuman’, with spacious synths weaving in and out, dramatizing the simple key arrangement without going over the top. If you think about it, it’s quite an oxymoron that ‘super’ is a prefix used for something magnificent, glorious, and wonderful when such occasions like these that yield such heavy emotions are anything but. Then again, if they sound as luscious as this one, bring on those feelings then.

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TRACK: ‘Where You Wanna Be’ – Justin De Guzman

The art of sampling is often blurred when it is used as a discourse aimed at nothing but pointing out that it is merely done to a half-baked track on which the musician ran out of ideas and just filled in the gaps for good measure. Such argument is flawed, but neither is it entirely false. But when done smart, sampling can breathe life to a long-forgotten song, a little-known b-side, a lesser-known single, or even a fading coda.

If you are familiar with Justin De Guzman’s work as head honcho of Deeper Manila, the label which cultivated exceptional talents such as June Marieezy and a plethora of Manila’s electronic artists and DJs, then you’d expect nothing short of carefully contextualized mixes, materializing into what most people regard as IDM or intelligent dance music. Regardless of category, his manipulation of Cassie’s 2006 hit, “Me & You,” is an undulating effort that highlights the song’s key moments. But instead of the catchy, one-dimensional beats we are familiar with, he slowed it down, replaced it with more textures, and added a subtle kink all throughout. Better than the original, and right on time with the change of season.

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ALBUM: ‘Perspectives’ – Brisom

Branding Brisom’s music as “soulful indie pop” is rather strategic. It’s a smart combination that is downright appealing: something for the nonchalant, the hip, and the radio-listening masses, encompassing a medley of genres that is neither hit or miss. One of their strengths, and it becomes very apparent now, goes beyond their material. Finishing a record is not an ultimatum set in order to be fulfilled as a band, but merely their momentum. After all, Brisom is comprised of musicians from post-millennial bands like Menaya, Soapdish and Silent Sanctuary. That being said, Brisom is a collectively different-sounding group. There are heavy influences of ‘80s pop, ‘90s rock, and a fusion of electronica carefully assembled in producing what eventually would become their debut EP, Perspectives.

Overall, the five-track EP’s strengths are its melodic riffs coupled with a tight rhythm section and electronic accompaniment. The latter serves as a balancing medium to each song: not too pop, not too rock. Another thing is the track listing. It might sound like an elementary detail, even trivial for some. But for a listener, it provides a good deal of mood-setting and sometimes, of storytelling. There’s an endearing complexity in the arrangements of its opening track, ‘Muted In Color,’ which soars as a carefree summer anthem, a groovy blend of Bombay Bicycle Club and Temper Trap influences. ‘Will I’ is an inflected counterpart of its original cut, stripped much of its strings yet smack full of pulsating beats. Lyrically, it is also a standout among the four. ‘Waking Lives’ and ‘Will I’’s original, guitar-heavy versions are solid crowd pleasers that can easily draw hordes of people to sing and bang their heads in unison, whereas ‘Day After Day’ is well-placed at the middle, leaning towards a more subdued, mellow mood.

Brisom’s first offering is the kind of music that whether you hear it live or on your music player, there is a stamina to it that gets preserved regardless of the medium. Whether they can sustain that depends, but for now, Brisom is fucking good.

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ALBUM: ‘Foreign Languages’ – tide/edit

38 minutes, in the new age, is an awfully short amount of time. There are showers and jeepney rides that last longer than 38 minutes. A Game of Thrones episode usually takes an hour, and so is falling in line on the MRT North Station between 7am to 9am. Foreign Languages, tide/edit’s first full-length album, is 38 minutes in length. But time, as this record exemplifies, is an abstract concept.

A common impression on tide/edit’s music is that it has a strong resemblance to Japanese post-rock band, Toe, which the band has cited as an influence, and from which they have drawn much inspiration with their songwriting, along with many similar-sounding acts. While it is so, the principles of creating an instrumental album of this caliber are generally the same: evoking and sustaining emotions. If there is any type of music that’s entirely open to interpretation, it all falls under the instrumental music category: whether in classical, electronic, or traditional form. A band can only give an idea (or ideas), a small window to their minds, as to what exactly they are feeling during the songwriting process. The rest is up to the listeners. When tide/edit released their first EP, aptly titled Ideas in 2012, it was a debut of graceful, complex rhythms that maximized guitar work and percussions. Their brand of ‘happy music’, as they define it in their online pages, is indeed more cheerful compared to other post-rock bands mushrooming in the scene. For one, they do not linger on their songs. On average, a track clocks right out at 4 minutes, tops. The sonic impact is present on the get-go. It was only a question on how tide/edit can develop more on this technique and how else can they surprise an audience.

The band’s follow-up to Ideas is a remarkable effort that delivered the same elements, yet has evidently expanded their musical template much further. Here, ‘happy music’ equates exhilarating chord progressions, a fully amped drum section, thicker bass sounds, and a distinctive kinetic quality to Foreign Languages that shifts relentlessly until you find yourself running out of breath. Listening to the first few notes of the opening track, ‘Ten’, feels like an airplane gaining altitude, or how one would imagine skydiving feels like: when all you can feel and hear is the strong gust of wind and adrenaline is filling up your entire system. ‘Always Right, Never Left’ follows suit, with the lead guitars melodically thrusting through at the right moments, alternating in force, as if you’re warming up for a marathon. With ‘Another Yes’, however, tide/edit spared no expense with regards to its guitar arrangement, all string instruments complementing each other, with the drums jostling right in place. The same can be said with ‘Dog Years’, one of the standouts in the album, which bore some traces from ‘Pagbangon’ – a cut from their first EP. This particular track feels like a run-through of a busy day: everything going in warp speed, blurring out the important details of our lives unless we go back and run them again like a motion picture in our mind.

If there’s anything certain about this new record, it’s that tide/edit’s sound has become fuller, and more importantly, self-aware. Tracks like ‘Odd & Even’, ‘I’m Angry Too’, and ‘Nicholas’ do not just serve as the brawn of Foreign Languages, but equally, the human element at its core. There’s thoughtfulness on their ode to typhoon victims in ‘HAIYAN’, vulnerability in ‘Was It a Cat I Saw?’ and ‘Was It a Rat I Saw?’ – which if you listen to both, one after the other, has a serene quality in it that delves into something deeper, something reflective. But among the others, there is a contrast between ‘Technicolor’ and ‘Northernmost’ – arguably two of the strongest tracks from the album, which also goes hand in hand. ‘Technicolor’ is aggressive, thunderous, even. If there’s a single track that encompasses all the passion poured into and made out of this album, this would be it. Meanwhile, ‘Northernmost’ has an earnest demeanor in it and is also intuitive. It serves as a fitting culmination to all the tracks prior to it, as if the slower sections of the song bid goodbye.

When frontman Clarence Garcia was asked on how they generally name their songs, he said that there were no specific criteria the band followed, but was done more on the sake of naming the songs. Foreign Languages,however, does not sound entirely foreign at all. It’s a personification of the emotions we are all familiar with. That of joy, sorrow, pain, and much more – the sound of feelings.

Stream and buy the album:

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ALBUM: ‘Pelota Court’ – Maude

A quick search on the Internet reveals that “pelota” (the Spanish word for ‘ball’) is any variety of court games that requires a rubber-cored ball. In the Philippines, it’s widely known as jai alai. The band, however, said that they chose the album name as an indirect reference to the 1970s and a nod to local music at the time, popularly referred to as Manila Sound, that stretched further than what was initially thought of as a passing trend, and bore little semblance to the decade it followed and eventually changed how music was made. This was the era of Apo Hiking Society, VST & Co., Asin, Juan de la Cruz Band, The Boyfriends, Rico J. Puno, Hotdog, Hagibis, Wadab, and many others.

Coincidentally, Maude is doing more than reference a ball game on their album. For one, the sound palette ofPelota Court is similar to what a local radio in the ‘70s would play: brisk, carefree, and melodic – songs that were crafted with the art of making it sound effortlessly done but on the contrary, weren’t. Same with Pelota Court, which turned out to be a dichotomy of lyrical and musical expressions. ‘Eve’, ‘Keep You’, and ‘Made To Last’ celebrate storybook love and even touched on the thrill of the chase – themes that usually comprise a romantic song. But the funny thing is, as French filmmaker Catherine Breillat once pointed out, “’Romantic’ doesn’t mean sugary. It’s dark and tormented — the furor of passion, the despair of an idealism that you can’t attain.” And so it did. However, ‘Grab’ and ‘Sikreto’ were penned based on something – while not uncommon – that was not always sung about: a forbidden love affair (or bordering in one). It is almost a sonic dissertation on the spiraling process of coveting: the other man/woman’s love songs that never were.

On the same vein as Robyn’s ‘Dancing On My Own’, Tegan and Sara’s ‘Shock To Your System’, New Order’s ‘True Faith’, and even Up Dharma Down’s ‘Luna’ is ‘Ride Your Car’, a sad song (“I’m here/He’s in L.A” sums up the point) masked by percussive arrangements layered with infectious melodies. ‘Habol’ and ‘Takda’ both start austere, where one can distinctly hear each song’s stem – bass, guitar, and drums – apart until all instruments sound converged towards the middle, blending harmoniously and like most of the songs in the album, beckoning you to move and dance, just listen carefully to the bass lines of ‘Takda’. Because maybe unrequited love stings, but then maybe you can just dance away that itch. ‘Sunshine’, and ‘Stand and Step’ are the ‘how-tos’ of recovery and the aftermath of heartbreak. Evidently, Maude covered all the bases. Lastly, there’s an irresistible charm with ‘Smoke’ that definitely lasts beyond the end of the song. Its somewhat tortured poetry (“Ask the smoke how to/Break free from its own fire”), willowy riffs, and stompy tempo fit the bill of great loungecore music. It’s classy, endearing, cozy, and poetic – almost feels like tasting a good glass of Tennessee whiskey.

Overall, there are no theatrics in Pelota Court. The ample acoustics and percussions, as well as the songwriting are more than enough to carry out the message the album wants to convey: love is and isn’t simple. Ultimately, music greatly reflects the state of our relationships, or lack thereof. Love might be damning difficult, but then again you can just choose to let go. Just like ‘Stand and Step’ goes, “Humans don’t fly, but we can get high.”

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TRACK: ‘Late’ – C R W N

King Puentespina’s work as C R W N has a strong sense of nostalgia: like wading through a deep pool of memories. His previous releases on SoundCloud (“New Yorker,” ”Back Home,” and “Tidal”) have been reminiscent of people, places, things, or an era from the past that holds a tender spot in our hearts. Undoubtedly, the man has an impeccable penchant for rhythm (he also plays drums for She’s Only Sixteen), mixing classic tunes with the digital-age music without losing the bravado of the former, which arguably makes his style, tick.

But in his recent track, “Late,” C R W N delivers an entirely different sound, that of refreshing candor. There’s the wispy synthwork from the get-go and the dotted rhythm, which when combined with the Ryan Hemsworth-slash-Cashmere Cat guile, results to an inarguably laid-back and soothing nighttime ditty. But most of all, it’s also like being in a pool. Only instead of wading through waters, you simply stay afloat.

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